However, such plastics are not yet optimal for daily use, as they are slightly more fragile than their petroleum-based rivals. DuPont now announces the market introduction of Biomax Strong 120, a polymer additive that tackles the problem by improving the performance of bio-based polylactic acid (PLA) packaging.
The additive toughens PLA packaging materials while maintaining its compliance with food contact requirements in the US and in Europe. The company introduced a similar additive in August 2006 for non-food applications.
As a performance modifier in PLA, both grades of Biomax Strong enhance impact strength, flexibility and melt stability - especially important in rigid applications such as cast sheets for thermoforming and injection molding. When Biomax Strong is used at recommended levels (1-5 wt%) in PLA, packaging made with the additive outperforms traditional products with minimal impact on haze or transparency.
Some companies predict that the market for bio-based plastics will grow by about 20 percent a year as the products are an alternative to petroleum-based packaging such as the widely-used polyethylene terephthalate (PET). In Europe, the bio-based economy also enjoys strong support from citizens (earlier post) who are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious. The bioplastic shopping bag and the plant-based "PET-bottle" are the most obvious symbols of this transition to the bioeconomy:
biofuels :: energy :: sustainability :: plastic :: bioplastic :: biopolymer :: biodegradable :: PLA :: bioeconomy ::
On the front of PLA-based bioplastics, NatureWorks is one of the main movers behind the biodegradable packaging trend. Companies like US-based Naturally Iowa have been using PLA for packaging products like organic milk. Retailers like Delhaize in Belgium and Auchan in France have also been testing PLA for various food packaging.
Demand for bioplastics in Europe experienced its first boom last year, according to a survey by the European Bioplastics Association, which has about 70 members (previous post). Currently bioplastics account for less than one percent of the European plastics market. But serious investments and research programs are underway, with the EU's SustainPack project, the largest of its kind, promising to bring radically new and highly competitive forms of bio-based packaging to market between 2010 and 2015 (earlier post).